The city wants to apply the Entertainment Overlay District to the Spellman Amphitheater and amend the 1993 park ordinance to allow beer and wine sales inside the amphitheater for four major concerts a year. The Entertainment Overlay is what allows places along Highway 80, like Chili's, Los Hermanos, and others to sell alcohol at their place of business. Rozell says it is not a zoning change and there would be no need to exempt the city from the “300 feet requirement” which specifies alcohol sales must be 300 feet away from schools, churches, and day care facilities. The city has verified that door to door the Spellman is further than 300 feet from any of those locations.
Among the other concerns that residents have voiced is that the amphitheater does not have adequate restroom facilities, nor enough parking for any big name acts that may bring over 4,000 people to the Spellman. Mayor Rozell said that the restrooms and concession stand built outside of the amphitheater were not built for the Spellman, but are to serve the “two multi-purpose fields” nearby. When the Spellman is in use by bigger acts, all concession sales will be done inside the fenced venue and portable toilets will be used inside the venue. Concert goers will not be allowed to walk in and out of the venue.
As to the parking issue. Rozell says, “Take beer and wine out of the equation and we'd still have to close the park to have adequate parking for all of the concert goers.” Overflow parking is not likely to be needed, but if it is, the city will consider using the FHS parking lot. He points out that off-duty Forney Police Officers will be hired to direct traffic in and out of the events, and will also be at major events to act as security. Some residents have asked for a traffic signal at the park entrance, but the signal would only serve a purpose a small percentage of the time and would not be cost effective according to Rozell.
Mayor Rozell says, “From my perspective, it's going to be a learning curve no matter what. Our best chance at success with this venue is to hire a company who has the experience and knows what they are doing.” So has the city hired a promotions group yet? Rozell says no. “The council has not hired a promotions group. We are interviewing several. We need to hire an expert to manage the events.” The group that is hired will be working with a new Forney Special Events Coordinator. That coordinator will also be overseeing a host of other Forney events such the 4th of July celebrations, the Trail of Treats, Turkey Trax, Hometown Christmas, and others.
Mayor Rozell makes it clear that the issue of alcohol sales for the four major concert events each year at the amphitheater needs to be decided soon. “The issue has been brought up now for months, and if we don't resolve it now and then focus on our smaller acts, it will continue being a divisive issue in the community. We have an opportunity to put a process in place to offset the cost of smaller events and benefit the whole community.” Essentially, the bigger acts will help pay for the smaller local acts, including events like movies in the park, and school performances. It will also help offset the cost of amphitheater expenses such as staff members.
Some residents have brought forth the suggestion of limiting alcohol sales at the major events, either by stopping sales at a certain time or by creating a certain number of drinks concert goers are allowed to have. Rozell has heard the ideas but he feels that the best way to regulate alcohol sales is the pricing. He says, “It's not a $2 beer, it's a $6 to $8 beer.” He points to the Texas Rangers baseball stadium as an example. They sell a lot of alcohol, but their prices are high, they have a lot of security, and they enforce their public intoxication laws. “We will fully enforce our public intoxication laws here as well,” says Rozell.
Rozell knows that this is an emotional issue for some people. He states, “The issue is complex yet simple, allow or don't allow alcohol at the Spellman...when we make that decision we have to represent the entire community and not just individual groups.” He continued, “We have a percentage of the population that are strongly against it, a percentage that is strongly for it—and the rest don't understand why it's even an issue.”
With that said, Mayor Rozell does have regrets, “If I had the whole process to do over again, there would have been much more information put out there up front, so there would not be all the rumors and misunderstandings. I'll commit to making sure we do a better job of that going forward.”